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US onion supply coming up short this spring

Weather related issues and dwindling global supplies will make the next few months problematic for the US with regard to its onion stocks.

Normally, American growers have enough onions in storage to last through the spring, while the spring and summer harvests get under way. That's not the case today; April supplies have dwindled 30 percent from the same time last year. April 1 stocks on hand sat at 6 million 50-pound units, down 61 percent in just one month. At current demand levels, onion storage will be all but nil by June.

"Decreased onion exports out of Europe, coupled with shrinking supplies from Mexico and Canada, fewer acres planted and increased demand in the United States are making for these tighter supplies," said Greg Yielding, executive VP and chief executive of the National Onion Association, based in Greeley, Colorado. "Our nation's growers will be working around the clock to continue to meet consumer demand. This could take another few months to balance out."

The tight supplies are a direct result of continued strong demand for onions across America, coupled with increased pressures on onion supplies across the globe. A good 74 percent of the United States' onion imports come from Mexico. Bad weather has hurt Mexican crops, especially, their coveted white onions. reports how shortages in European markets also have put increased pressure on worldwide onion supplies, which have a ripple effect in the United States. Imports from Canada, which make up about 10 percent of the United States onion import market, also are impacted by this worldwide crunch.

America's spring and summer harvests are starting to get under way, but they are down a bit from previous years. The overall spring crop in California is down 25 to 30 percent in acres. Texas onions, also with fewer acres planted, are coming out of the ground but the harvest has been slow due to wet weather. Georgia's Vidalia crop also is smaller than previous years – about 20 percent — while harvest also is rather slow due to weather. Look for Vidalias to hit the market on April 22.

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